Grant Park Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Grant Park Orchestra 

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Soprano Dawn Upshaw has been a New Yorker for almost two decades, but still regards Chicago as her hometown: she was raised in Park Forest and went to college at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. This summer, in fact, she's returning for two concerts--one on Friday with the Grant Park Orchestra and another in August with the Borromeo String Quartet at Ravinia. In the 18 years since her Metropolitan Opera debut, where she had just two lines, Upshaw has established an unassailable place for herself in American music. Onstage she's sweet and unassuming, without a trace of diva temperament, and she establishes a ready rapport with her audience whether she's costumed for an operatic role or just being herself in a recital. Her voice is radiant and supple, and though its delicacy isn't always suited to broadly dramatic passages, Upshaw has been smart enough to choose the right vehicles for it--rather than try to belt out a heroic Wagner aria, for instance, she sticks to soubrette parts, romantic songs, and the like. In the early 90s she delivered a spellbinding, ethereal lamentation on a recording of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony no. 3 that went on to sell over a million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful classical albums ever; she's since cemented her reputation with new works, originating the role of Daisy Buchanan in John Harbison's The Great Gatsby and performing genre-blending pieces written for her by Young Turks like Adam Guettel and Michael John LaChiusa. As part of New York's revitalized musical-theater scene, she's also branched out to tackle golden-age Broadway songwriters like the Gershwins and Rodgers and Hart; she's one of a handful of classically trained singers who can capture the essence of a show tune instead of just sounding stuffy. For this Friday's concert, Upshaw's selections are mostly light and playful: excerpts from Marie-Joseph Canteloube's earthy, folksy Songs of the Auvergne, and from Broadway, equally colorful tunes by Bernstein, Sondheim, and Weill. Rounding out the program are three orchestral selections, Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, Copeland's Billy the Kid Suite, and Ravel's Alborada del gracioso; Carlos Kalmar conducts. Friday, June 14, 7:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Columbus at Jackson; 312-742-4763.

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